Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" and Kevin J. Anderson's "Jedi Academy" series of novels. The Rogues are mine, except for Wedge and Tycho.
No copyright infringement is intended.
Wes watched Wedge briefing his new squadron; all of them being on Folor together made it easy to duck over and watch, easy to make sure his own kids could see how the master did it, too. Every little bit helped, he figured.
What he caught today, wondering if Wedge’s new Rogues did, or knew what it meant if they did, was that Wedge’s eyes were green. He was calm, his voice was steady, he was making sense and sounding confident, but he was stressed. With any luck, it’d be a long time before the pilots realized it. After all, they wouldn’t pick it up off of Wedge in any other way. And Tycho wouldn’t tell them, even if he wasn’t spending all his time in his quarters... Wes shook his head over the situation, it had to be adding to Wedge’s stress. Personally, he didn’t know, but he’d bet his life on Wedge’s judgment. No sense changing now.
Anyway, somebody would have to tell these new kids what green eyes meant, when they were Wedge Antilles’s, especially since Wedge was keeping his distance from them. Wes wasn’t going to be the one, either. He grinned involuntarily, remembering how he’d found out.
Ord Mandell, in DownTime. Five or six Rogues knocking back some drinks after a nasty little trip that had cost Ev Murdaan an arm. Wedge sneezing those little cat sneezes that he’d started about two days after they arrived. Tycho and Sainsy giving him a hard time. Kind of a nice evening stretching out ahead of them. Until three Y-Wing pilots had shown up, drunk and angry.
“Hey - hey, you Imps!”
None of Rogue had looked up, and one of the Y-Wingers had grabbed Tycho’s shoulder. “Look at me, damn you!”
Tycho had slapped the man’s hand away and he and Sainer had both been ready to get to their feet. Wedge had put a pacifying hand on his exec’s shoulder and said, with deceptive quietness, “Are you talking to my pilots?” The effect had been slightly spoiled by a sneeze.
“That depends,” one of the Y-Wingers had said.
Another had chimed in, “You claimin’ these Imps?”
“You might want to get your eyes checked,” Wedge said mildly. “Everyone at this table is wearing” he sneezed again “Alliance tan, not Imperial black.”
“Now,” said one of them.
“Not before,” said another.
“They killed my brother,” said the third.
“See,” said Wedge, “I knew you were mistaken. They never flew against us.”
“Doesn’t matter. They’re Imps.”
“I see,” said Wedge, and sneezed.
Wes could tell the sneezing was unfortunate; they weren’t taking him seriously. Wedge looked around the table at his own pilots; Wes was startled to see how green the Corellian’s usually brown eyes looked. He must really be allergic to something, Wes thought.
“Clear out,” said Wedge to Wes and the others.
“Wedge,” Wes started to protest, watching as Sainer slid out of his chair.
Rom got to his feet and tapped Wes’s shoulder. “Come on,” he said. “Listen to the boss.”
“Where you going?” That was one of the Y-Wingers, but Wes could have asked it.
“Out,” Rom smiled at them.
Rom blinked at them, and then laughed. It sounded like a genuine, spontaneous laugh. “Are you thinking that I was in Imperial Fleet?” Rom laughed again, shaking his head. “Arey. They had their standards, you know. Me,” he said to Sainer, who shrugged.
“Not callin' you an Imp; callin’ you a coward,” the Y-Winger said.
Rom sobered and directed those pale blue eyes at the man. “Oh yes,” he said softly. “Without question. I don’t cross him,” his finger moved from indicating himself to pointing at Wedge. “Let’s go,” he tugged on Wes’s shoulder.
Wedge sneezed again, looked at Wes, and motioned with his head, eyes green as grass. Wes allowed Rom to pull him to his feet, and, reluctantly, he followed him and Sainer away. As he left, he saw Wedge putting up an arm to stop one of the Y-Wingers from following them.
Outside, Rom leaned against the wall. Sainer hesitated, and then started out toward the street.
“Sainsy?” Wes said.
“I’m going back. Maybe look in on Ev,” the redhead said.
“Say hi, if he’s waked,” said Rom.
“Sainsy,” Wes started.
But the lanky pilot shook his head decisively. “Nope,” he said. “I’m heading back, because if I don’t go back, I’ll be going back in there-” he jerked a thumb at the DownTime, “and that would be a mistake.”
“We’ll wait,” said Rom. “Later.”
Sainer nodded again and left.
Rom didn’t let him finish, either. “Sainsy’s upset, ’cause he is ex-Imperial. He’ll settle. ’Course, what Wedge said, it’s true, they didn’t, ’cause Sainsy never shot at a rebel. Tycho, well, Tycho’s a different story. But it’s no big deal. Kahrai.” Rom dragged that word out, hitting the last syllable with a lot of disgust.
Wes didn’t know what it meant, but he had other things on his mind. He said, earnestly, “You know, Rom, somebody’s probably going to start throwing punches in there.”
“Boss’s spoiling for a fight,” said Rom. “Didn’t you see?”
“See what?” asked Wes, watching Sainer out of sight.
“Wedge,” said Rom, like it was obvious.
“Yes, I saw him. He’s always quiet.”
“His eyes. They were green.”
“I noticed that.”
“You don’t notice it much, do you?”
Wes thought about that. True, now that he put his mind to it, Wedge’s eyes were sort of variable; it probably wasn’t allergies. But he didn’t spend a lot of time staring at people’s eyes, especially not other men’s. “Some people’s eyes seem to change,” he protested. “It doesn’t mean anything except they’ve changed clothes.”
“Not Wedge’s,” said Rom. “His go green when he’s stressed. Angry. Pushed hard. Spoiling for a fight, like now.”
“Stressed?” Wes repeated questioningly.
Rom shook his head decisively. “Not scared. At least,” he amended, “not combat, combat doesn’t.”
“How do you know?” asked Wes, curious.
“’Cause I seen him take a White-Five up against squints, and you know White-Fives... no?” he said, as Wes shook his head. “Well, they’re one-man ships, everything for the pilot, nothing for his passenger. So I had nothing to do but watch, and he was not, not once, green-eyed.”
“When was that?”
“It was at Polon. You weren’t at Polon-”
“Oh, the hell,” said Wes. “I got three kills at Polon.”
“Yeah, over Polon. You weren’t down there, with us, when we went in first to find out what was there to tell you guys with the task force,” said Rom patiently. “So we were leaving Polon, in a hurry, ‘cause you remember there were Imps all over place, unlike what we were told? And we had to abandon the Baudie we took in. We came out in YT-500s. Two of them, because you can get three people in a White-Five, if both passengers and the pilot all like each other a lot. But you can’t get four. So we had to take two. And the Imps were jamming us with a real snowstorm. So, me and Wedge in one, and Sharl and Kappy in the other. We went for jump point, and ran head into six squints. You could just about hear through the snow if you were close enough to touch, so Wedge slid next to Sharl, told her to haul for you guys, and then he turned around and dove right into the squints, firing at all of ’em.” Rom shook his head in disbelief.
“It was absolutely not my favorite moment in the Rebellion, I tell you. He shoots at five of them, actually clips one and shakes the others up. The last one, he heads for Sharl ... Wedge says, ‘no you don’t’ and starts chasing him, ignoring the fact that we have five seriously annoyed squint pilots after us.”
“I thought you said he hit one,” Wes said. This was the first time he’d heard any details of that action; all Sharl Ontar had ever said was “The captain bought us the time.”
“Clipped, I said. He clipped one. Messed up one of his vanes, that’s all. Didn’t stop him shooting, I tell you. White-Fives are not designed for combat. I never want to do that again.”
Wes snickered at him. “You came out okay,” he said, blithely ignoring the fact that Rom had ended up bacta-tanked because of that little action.
“Well, yeah. And if I ever do do it again, I want to do it with him, but I don’t want to do with him, either,” Rom said aggrievedly. “There’s me with nothing whatever to do but try to remember the name of every god I ever heard of, so I don’t make any of ’em mad by forgetting to beg for my life.” He shrugged. “I guess I didn’t. And, I’m watchin’ Wedge watchin’ them, ’cause he’s got six to keep track of. For a while, anyway. I mean, you know he got ’em all.” Wes did, but he would have liked a step by step description. Rom didn’t do those without being asked, though. “Which by then White-Five was a rock in air. And,” Rom had finally reached his point, “his eyes were a nice, clear brown the whole time. No stress; I tell you, he lives that. I don’t remember him puttin’ it down; I didn’t walk away from it, but he did, carryin’ me, so it was pretty good landin’. All things considered.”
“Sounds like,” Wes acknowledged.
“So,” Rom concluded, “I can tell you, combat doesn’t stress him. Losin’ people does, though. Guess he’ll be feelin’ better after he deals with those fogbrains.”
“We should have stayed,” Wes repeated.
“We should not. Direct order,” said Rom. “Five against three, bad reports on us. Three against two, well, one if Wedge can keep Tyke out of it-”
“True, true; but either way, bad report on them. And the day three drunks like that can take the captain, let alone both of ‘em, well,” Rom shrugged, “that’s the day I run buy a numbers ticket.”
“I guess,” nodded Wes.
“I know,” said Rom. “Anyway, end line is: stay out of Wedge’s way when his eyes are green like that. Just give him room.”
Rom was, of course, oversimplifying, the way he always did. Things were always simple when the Kanraynra looked at them. If Harl Ferris hadn’t been a complicated sort of a guy, Wes would have figured it to be cultural, but it was, seemingly, just Rom. But in the months and years that followed Ord Mandell, Wes had to admit that, if you looked for it, you could tell when Wedge was under stress.
Like he was now, talking to a room full of strangers, for whose lives he had made himself responsible. And Tycho, off to the side; that had to be contributing, Wes thought again. Though Tycho’s being back would help, too. Like Rom had said, the Alderaanian was a different story, and that difference was part of the problem now. But Wedge had put his career on the line for Tycho, and that was enough for Wes, and would have been enough if he had never known Tycho before.
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